Top Tips for Personal Growth and Success from the U.S. Youth Observer to the UN

As U.S. Youth Observer to the UN, I recently met with a group of UNA-USA Young Professionals to discuss my role and share a few tips for continuous self-improvement. I shared this advice to demonstrate how I balanced multiple domestic and international trips, planned a wedding, and ran 7 marathons all during my term as Youth Observer.  I still have lots of room to grow, but I thought it would be helpful to summarize a few of the tips I shared with the UNA-USA Young Professionals.

Watch the recording here and see below for my top 3 tips for continuous improvement.

While I am far from perfect, I hope you find these tips helpful. Before bed, I often reflect back on the day and wish there was more time to accomplish everything on the to-do list. Maybe you’ve felt this way too. As I’ve met with thousands of young people from across our country during my term as Youth Observer, I’ve noticed that many of us desire to contribute to something bigger than ourselves. To help other people. And to make a difference. This is why I want to share a few of my ideas with you in hopes of sparking a conversation that can make a difference. Good luck with your goals and remember the Chinese proverb, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

1) Set and track meaningful goals

Have you ever wondered why so many of our New Year’s Resolutions don’t make it past February? I believe it is because we are often really good at setting big goals without a proper plan to accomplish these goals. Take, for example, the goal to run the Boston marathon. As a 24-year-old male, I must first participate in a Boston-certified qualifying race and run it in less than 3 hours. For me to run a sub 3 hour marathon, I must run 26.2 miles at an average pace of 6:50 per mile. In order to average a 6:50 pace, I need to commit to  healthy eating habits, adequate sleep, and daily exercise. Oftentimes, we set the goal to run our version of the Boston Marathon without planning the daily steps it will take to accomplish this big goals. This all made sense when I came across the following quote by Gandhi:

“Success came by changing himself, not by changing his environment.”

Rather than wishing the world would change to help me meet my goals, Gandhi helped me understand that it takes effort to change myself. I believe lasting change comes from incremental self-improvement, which is why I have been tracking my meaningful goals in one form or another since middle school.

Here is an example of my current tracking sheet: Meaningful Goals Spreadsheet

I encourage you to download a copy of this template and make it your own. Think about your long-term goals and set short-term goals to help you get there. This idea has evolved many times over the past 10 years, and every month and I add something new. So make this idea your own and let me know if you have any thoughts to improve it.

2) Don’t let fear hold you back

Now setting goals is great, but confidence is the true key to helping us accomplish our goals. We can develop this confidence through persistence and by surrounding ourselves with good people. Allow me to share an experience to highlight this principle. During the spring semester of my junior year at Utah State University. I joined a book club to discuss Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. Chapter 1 begins with the question, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

We went around the table sharing our answers to this question. During the discussion, I observed many of my peers share ideas for how the university could update certain policies to improve the quality of life for women and minorities. Then it was my turn to share. I surprised myself by saying, “If I weren’t afraid, I would run for office and work with each of you to begin implementing these changes.” Little did I know that this would be the conversation that began my campaign for Student Body President and, subsequently, my desire to serve as Youth Observer. It is so easy for us to feel imposter syndrome when trying something new.  For this reason, I want to share one of my favorite quotes by Jim Rohn, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Surround yourself with good people, and be a good friend in return.

3) Get inspired

Top 15 Book Recommendations

And finally, reading a good book is a lot like following a recipe. It’s so much easier when someone provides an outline for us based on their life experiences. For this reason, I am a huge fan of books. I try to read or listen to 20 books a year. Below I have compiled a list of the top 15 books I’ve recently enjoyed.

  • Becoming by Michelle Obama
  • Creating Magic by Lee Cockerell
  • Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team by Simon Sinek
  • Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  • How Will You Measure Your Life? By Clayton M. Christensen
  • Leadership and Self-Deception by Arbinger Institute
  • Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
  • Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
  • The Butterfly Effect by Andy Andrews
  • The Culture Map by Erin Meyer
  • The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
  • The Originals by Adam Grant
  • The Road to Character by David Brooks

What books have you found inspiring this past year? Share them on social media and tag me at @USYouthObserver.